Del Mar school district faces possible deficit spending


By Karen Billing

Del Mar Union School District is looking at the possibility of deficit spending by $4.6 million in 2012-13, district superintendent Jim Peabody reported at the May 23 meeting.

In the first reading of the preliminary budget, Peabody said they are projecting total revenues of $39,069,693, with total expenditures totaling $43.6 million.

“We have work to do, we understand that,” Peabody said.

Peabody admits that they have been conservative, as they have in years past. This year they are looking at a $2.6 million deficit, but they will have a better idea of where they will actually land in August. The district budgeted very conservatively on property tax having a 1 percent increase in property tax and Peabody said it looks like it could be an increase of 3 percent.

Peabody discussed the difficulties schools are facing across California, as the state faces a structural deficit of $15-16 billion.

The revenues came in short once again and the state overspent by $2.6 billion. Education was the only entity that not only cut its budget but also its spending, Peabody said.

Peabody discussed Governor Jerry Brown’s school finance tax initiative that would mean, if it passes in November, the “weighted student formula” will go into effect.

The formula states that at the base level (K-3) $5,466 would be allocated per student (this year the district spent $10,100 per student). At the 4-6 level, $4,934 would be allocated per student. This would be phased over seven years,

Peabody said 70 percent of all districts in California would be losing money and 30 percent would be gaining.

Additionally, there will be deferrals related to the bill AB 103. The bill defers $3.6 billion to K-12 next year, although it does not impact DMUSD as the district receives money locally as a community-funded district.

“If that passes, some 17 of 42 districts in San Diego won’t be able to meet payroll between October and December of next year,” Peabody said.

If the tax initiate fails, there will be a mid-year reduction of $441 per student and districts would also be allowed to reduce the school year by 15 days over two years, and the weighted student formula would be postponed.

Moving forward, the district has to make some adjustments but Peabody stressed the goal is to keep cuts away from the classroom.

Some of the things they have already done to reduce the budget include tightening up spending to run maintenance and operations (M&O), technology and the district office; taking away $16,000 of lunch duty stipends; and reducing district administration, resulting in a savings of $92,000.

Peabody had a list of recommendations to reduce the budget further, including cutting library services in half ($267,000); a furlough day for all classified staff ($28,000); certificated staff furlough ($141,000); eliminate oversize class stipends ($230,000); eliminating duty- free lunch ($28,000); and restricted maintenance, such as putting off painting or slurry seals for a year ($214,000).

Already M&O has been doing anything they can to maintain the quality of the campuses at lower the cost, such as doing all the plumbing in house rather than hiring someone outside to do the work and rebuilding air conditioning units themselves.

“Just tighten it up that’s been our mantra,” Peabody said. “We want to do whatever we can to keep money in the classroom.”

One option is to eliminate one of the district’s three nurses, a savings of $82,000, but Peabody said the district has many medically fragile students so they would really need to weigh the need and the cost of that decision.

Another option is to eliminate one maintenance and operations position, at a savings of $64,300. Peabody explained it would not be a layoff—one of the employees is considering leaving and they would simply not fill the position.

“No matter what decisions we make, it’s going to affect people and that’s the hardest part of budget reductions,” Peabody said.

Peabody said another area for possible reduction is in the superintendent salary as they won’t likely hire someone with as much experience as Peabody had.